Shooting a thief no longer a crime in Italy

ROME - Italy's parliament approved today a law that allows citizens to shoot robbers in self-defence, a measure that critics say will encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

The reform was championed by the populist Northern League party, which regularly calls for the castration of rapists.

It authorises the use of guns and knives as legitimate defence by victims of robberies and break-ins in their own house, workplace or in a shop, whether it is to protect someone's life or belongings.

"Today criminals will have more to fear while there will be fewer problems for honest people," said Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, who belongs to the Northern League.

The measure was put forward after a series of headline-grabbing cases in which shopkeepers were accused of manslaughter for killing their robbers and applies only if there is a "risk of aggression" for the victim of the break-in and no sign that the intruder is backing down.

The centre-left opposition, who voted against the new law, said it amounted to promoting "do-it-yourself" justice.

"This is a ... measure that delegates the use of force to citizens with the sole certain result of increasing the risks for people's safety," said Paolo Cento of the opposition Greens party.

The reform, which had languished before deputies for three years, is the latest in a flurry of measures rushed through parliament by the government ahead of a general election slated for April 9.

- REUTERS

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